Knowledge of metabolism functions is currently one of the most important issues in the sports world. Sports have taken over in-depth analysis of each individual aspect related to the metabolism. Its spans far beyond the simple concept of energy expenditure and consumption, and is used to increase the athlete’s capacity.
For some time, we know a new parameter in circulation among professionals used to measure sports performance, especially in football and rugby: Metabolic Power.
Metabolic Power is being used mostly in team sports, like football, rugby or field hockey
History of the Metabolic Power
A study published several years ago (2005) by Prof. Di Prampero revolutionized athlete performance measurement. He determined that, unlike in constant speed running in any “situational” sports, the energy cost of running at acceleration is higher than running at constant speed, since the subject must also spend energy to increase his kinetic energy. Therefore, he created the following formula: Metabolic Power = Energy Cost x Speed.
To put it simply, Metabolic Power is the ability to produce a certain amount of energy in a limited time in order to meet the demands of our body.
The need to introduce this new parameter appeared because we noticed different energy expenditures when practicing team sports (such as football). In these kinds of sports, there are short sprints during games, which are not continuous.
The expenditure of energy is higher for athletes who play team sports in which they must constantly increase and decrease their speed (again the case of football, the best example for explaining metabolic power).
In fact, in a football match we can see many accelerations and decelerations, followed or preceded by low-medium speed walking or running phases (see – Sonda Sports app). Before the Metabolic Power concept, it was never possible to quantify indirectly the power delivered by these variations.
Professor di Prampero differentiated acceleration and deceleration from linear motion, which was the basis for calculating metabolic performance. It resembles acceleration with the inclination and effort needed to climb a hill.
Professor Prampero noted that it was impossible for energy expenditure to be the same as that of a person only running in a straight line, which should be greater. This is the origin of this small metabolism “revolution”.
Prof. Di Prampero was the first sports scientist to introduce the concept of Metabolic Power as we know it today
Using Metabolic Power in Team Sports
The real enigma perhaps lies in the use of these calculations. For many years, we used to think that the better the lung capacity and physical appearance of an athlete, the better the performance. However, it is not as simple as it seems.
Let’s make a classic comparison between an Olympic medalist and an average runner. Both may have the same energy cost – the energy they need to perform a certain activity – and they may even have the same capacity to store that necessary energy. However, what differentiates them? The way they consume and produce it.
The medalist can produce and consume this energy perhaps in half the time of the average runner. This is a significant difference between the two. But how can we calculate and prepare strategies to decrease this gap? Through the calculation and empowerment of Metabolic Power.
This measurement can be performed using data collected by GPS sports trackers. In the case of the Sonda Sports system, the results are displayed in the form of a simple graph online or on a mobile app. They can be exported and used in further analysis.
GPS sports trackers are one of the easiest ways to track Metabolic Power
Data Collection and Analysis
A study by Johston et al, 2015 on Australian football showed why Metabolic Power estimation is so important for the design and implementation of training programs and recovery sessions. According to this research, it is not necessary to change the current training plan. Through careful management of the rotation of athletes during training and competitions, it is possible to replicate the same capacity or Metabolic Power expressed by athletes of a higher level.
In another study by Coutts et al, 2015, it was found that there are differences in the roles of both speed variables and Metabolic Power. Midfielders have the greatest physical commitment compared to other positions (attackers and defenders respectively). This study shows how metabolic potency can help to understand physical demand in Australian football.
Malone et al, 2016, conducted a study on Gaelic Football athletes. Like other authors, they underlined the physical effort of the players, according to the tactical roles they had, occupying the central area of the field.
The results of this study reinforced the hypothesis that by investigating the relationship between Metabolic Power and, in this case, the speed zones classification, we gain more knowledge about the physiological profile of the athlete, being able to construct more adequate training programs to prepare players.
Metabolic Power can be displayed in the Sonda Sports app
In recent times, this type of evaluation has become one of the main duties of modern football fitness coaches (the most organised clubs have even created a new position – the data analyser or data scientist).
Thanks to the newest technologies, coaches are now not only responsible for fitness training sessions, but also for preparing “functional” and “situational” training, i.e. similar to what happens during a football match. They then analyze the data collected with the GPS sports tracker and determine whether the “volume” of training is more or less suitable for the purpose, properly evaluating the team and its performance on the field.
In fact, the training style used by this new school of Metabolic Power has more to do with lateral exercises or acceleration and deceleration, where there is not only an opportunity to analyze the athlete’s locomotion but also his performance and possible improvements.